There is something that has weighed on me for years. Until recently I wasn’t sure what to do, but then I had the opportunity to spend a week with my friend during her husband’s deployment.
They haven’t lived in their current city very long and they aren’t near family. My friend works full time, volunteers, leads a ministry, and works hard to raise her two young daughters. Deployment adds stress to her marriage as she and her husband strive to parent their daughters, care for each other well, and focus on their daily tasks.
This makes for long, stressful weeks. A Military Times article states only 19% of military spouses report having excellent or very good support during a spouse’s deployment. In 2017 the same survey results reported 23% of spouses had the same response. While neither is great, the drop is important to note.
You may wonder why I’m sharing this here. I’ve explored the similarities between what military families and coaching families deal with for a while now and I believe there is something coaches’ wives should consider.
Did You Notice the Outcry from Bad Memories?
Recently our country faced an extremely tense and confusing political situation. For days we waited and watched Twitter to see when Iran would follow through on their threats to retaliate against our military. Would the United States enter yet another decades-long war costing thousands of lives and wounding hundreds of thousands more?
As reports of troops deployed began to appear something else started to make the rounds as well. Wives of veterans began to share posts. Articles about how hard deployment is, photos of their husbands deploying 20 years prior, stories of fear they fought as they waited for reports after bombings on military bases. Military families across the US are experiencing trauma from their past deployments. And it’s our job to listen.
And while listening is a great first step, we can’t stop there because veterans may be facing bad memories, but there are families of troops that still deploy regularly and with this month’s announcement that is going to increase rapidly.
Coaches’ Wives: There May Be a Wife Who Needs You
I’m not going to put words in the mouths of military wives (they are doing an amazing job speaking up for themselves) but I do want to try to highlight why I believe coaches’ wives are uniquely qualified to step in and encourage and support military wives.
First, those who serve in the military are sacrificing everything for our safety. Regardless of the benefits, they may receive it’s never enough. They are sacrificing their lives, their health, their time with family, and often their mental health.
Coaching families may not have the same stresses as military families dealing with deployment, but the similarities are there and we speak a very similar language.
Consider these examples:
Moving: I wrote a post The Fear that Lingers with Coaches’ Kids and talked about how even when our boys knew we were moving locally they still instinctively had a moment of fear. Several military wives and women who grew up in the military commented that most of what I wrote translates exactly for their lives as well.
Preparing: A military wife posted: Is nesting before deployment a real thing? If not I may need to get a pregnancy test! I knew exactly what she was referring to because I “nest” at the beginning of every football season. We joked a little about it, but I also made sure to let her know we’re praying for her family. Their sacrifice is different, but I understand the stress she is facing.
The unknown: As coaching families, we often hear rumors that we’ll be facing job searches soon. How much longer will we live in our home? Where will we go next? Military families deal with the same rumors.
Building community far from family: Coaching families go where the job is and military families go where the orders move them. Both require that we build support systems in our local communities that often don’t include family.
Burdening expectations: Recently a military wife shared with me that she realized she was still carrying unnecessary guilt due to the language the military uses during deployments. Wives are told that when their husbands are deployed they need to do everything they can to let them focus on their deployment. They shouldn’t fight or upset their husbands because if their husbands are distracted lives could be lost.
THINK ABOUT THAT. What kind of unrealistic expectation does that place on a marriage during deployment when a wife, carrying the burden of everything going on at home is also afraid of distracting her husband if she SAYS THE WRONG THING?
While coaches’ wives certainly don’t need to worry about a conflict leading to the type of tension seen on the battlefield we are very familiar with burdening expectations. Whether it is the parent who expects you to act as your husband’s secretary and mouthpiece or that family member who places unrealistic demands on your time during the season, the reality is that we understand what it’s like to bear the brunt of other people’s disappointments and expectations for us about our husband’s job.
Why Should I Reach Out?
The truth is that we have an opportunity to not only build a relationship with a family in our community who needs support but to build a bridge where the media has worked to create a divide.
There are some sections of the media that are strategically trying to create a division between athletics and patriotism. The rhetoric is exhausting but the only way to fight against hateful words is to prove with action that their words are lies. The best way to prove those know-it-all opinionists wrong is to actively and intentionally serve one family at a time the best way you can.
Actions speak louder than words. Coaching families value, appreciate and respect the tremendous sacrifice of military families and it’s time to show the military wives in our communities a little more activity how far that gratitude extends. We don’t need to make a public spectacle of our gratitude. That’ s not helpful. But as coaches’ wives, WE KNOW what is helpful, loving, and caring in overwhelming situations.
Still looking for a little guidance? Check out this recent article 6 Ways to Help a Military Spouse Dealing with a Surprise Deployment
Veterans who Coach
One of the main reasons the media rhetoric surrounding a division between patriotism and athletics is false is that many veterans adopt second careers as coaches. There is a significant overlap within these careers on the other side as well in that it is not uncommon for high school and college athletics to enlist once their playing careers are complete. Military and Athletic ties run deep and because of this, I believe it’s a natural fit for coaches’ wives and military wives to pitch in and support each other when they can.
The Most Important Reason to Reach Out to a Military Wife
I can list many additional reasons why I believe you should consider reaching out to a military wife in your community. Instead, I’ll say that the most important reason to reach out is that just like you, my coach’s wife friend, military wives are used to doing things without asking for help.
They are also used to not having the option to share openly about stressful situations, and they understand that there are days when cereal is a perfectly acceptable dinner. You have more in common with the military wife in your community than you realize and my guess is that you will enjoy spending time together as well as helping each other out in stressful seasons. It’s a special thing to have a friend you can count on when family is far away. It’s even more special when that friend just gets the why about your crazy life.
So, here’s my encouragement to you. Stay attentive to who the military families in your community are and reach out to them and let them know you are glad they are a part of your neighborhood. Do more to thank them for their service. If your kids are similar ages invite them over or meet up somewhere to get to know each other better. You’re resourceful, you know what to do and if nothing else, rely on the Golden Rule. Remember, your community needs your support just as you need the support of your community. Show your local military wives your home is a compassionate and safe space where they can talk freely. You know how important it is to have someone to listen when your husband isn’t around. Military wives need that too.
Editors note: This post was originally written September 2019 and was updated for accuracy January 2020